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Wednesday, June 22, 2022

South Carolina bill permits health care providers refuse non-emergency care based on beliefs

Brooke Migdon
The Hill
Originally posted 1 APR 22

Story at a glance
  • Legislators in South Carolina on Friday passed a bill which would allow healthcare providers to deny care based on their personal beliefs. It would also apply to insurance companies, which may be entitled to refuse to pay for care.
  • The bill would also protect those who decline to provide medical services from civil, criminal or administrative liability.
  • Some say the bill, known as the “Medical Ethics and Diversity Act,” would disproportionately affect the LGBTQ+ community, as well as women and people of color.
South Carolina lawmakers on Friday passed a bill allowing medical professionals and insurance companies to deny care based on personal belief. Some say the legislation, which now heads to the state Senate for consideration, would disproportionately impact LGBTQ+ people, women, and people of color.

Under the bill, titled the “Medical Ethics and Diversity Act,” South Carolina law would be altered to excuse medical practitioners, health care institutions and health care payers from providing care that violates their “conscience.” It would also shield those who decline to provide medical services to patients from civil, criminal or administrative liability.

Dozens of state residents in February testified against the bill, calling it vague and overbroad. They also shared concerns that the legislation would disproportionately impact marginalized communities.

In a statement on Friday, Human Rights Campaign Legal Director Sarah Warbelow said she finds it “disturbing” that politicians in South Carolina are prioritizing individual providers’ beliefs over the wellbeing of patients.

“This legislation is dangerously silent in regards to the needs of patients and fails to consider the impact that expanding refusals can have on their health,” she said. “Religious freedom is a fundamental American value that is entirely compatible with providing quality, non-discriminatory healthcare. It is not a license to deprive others of their rights simply because of personal beliefs.”

Warbelow said the bill sends a message to patients with non-medical views inconsistent with that of their doctors that they are “not equal members of society entitled to dignity and respect.”

Editor's Note: Those politicians who pass laws based on culture wars are clearly violating the principle-based ethics on which all medical ethics rely.  If they pass harmful laws that conflict with health care ethics, then they are not fit to serve.